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Monday, September 22, 2008

Atlanta Georgia Suffering through Gas supply/Price Crisis

Residents in the Atlanta are scrambling to find gas as supply problems left over from two recent hurricanes make it hard to fill up the tank.

Some stations were out of gas on Monday, while others were down to a single pump or offering only one grade of gas.

State and industry officials say one factor causing the shortage is the interruption of the supply from the Gulf of Mexico, where refineries were hit hard by hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Another factor is the required use of cleaner-burning fuel in Atlanta, which means fuel can't be easily diverted from other areas that have sufficient supplies.

Industry officials say refineries are quickly restoring supply, but some station owners say they've been warned not to expect normal supplies for days.

In AAA Auto Club South's weekly fuel report, they noted that supply is thin in certain areas across the Southeast, but that the supply is improving daily. The shortage led to higher than normal gas prices over the past week, but that is forecasted to decline as supply is expected to increase this week.

"The gasoline supply situation is improving, but it's like trying to turn a huge ship. It just takes time," said Randy Bly, Director of Community Relations for AAA Auto Club South.

On Sunday, some residents have said they were considering taking Monday off because they just could not find a gas station with any fuel. Other motorists waited in long lines that stretched to the street at the few stations they found to still have gas.

Officials said they wanted to stress to the communities that no one should be hording gasoline. Cars should only be refilled when they are close to empty and drivers should not top off tanks when they are half full or more. They stressed that more gasoline is on the way.

The Colonial Pipeline, the nation's largest, is the major source of gasoline in Georgia. The Alpharetta-based company said they usually carry an average of 100 million gallons of gasoline and other refined petroleum everyday, but they are not at that capacity yet due to a lack of supply from the refineries.

The Department of Energy said in a report release Friday, that Hurricane Ike knocked out about 20% of the nation's refining capacity along the Gulf; the lowest since November 1967, but that figure is shrinking everyday. The report said that ten refineries in Texas and Louisiana were still offline, but three of those refineries could be up and producing gasoline as early as Wednesday. The report also outlined several refineries' plan to increase production to offset the demand.

AAA reported that the average price of regular unleaded gas in Georgia Sunday was $3.99 which is $0.23 higher than the national average and only $0.02 cheaper than the average for Metro Atlanta resident. Overall across the state, gas is up about $0.39 from last month and about $1.25 higher than a year ago. The price of crude oil closed Friday at $104.55 per barrel.

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